Angel Olsen @ The Gov Review

Published in Music News  
Her music may be predominately bleak, but Olsen is not an angel of darkness; her smile and insight brings comfort to the heartbroken.

Angel’s backing band took to the stage in matching grey suits and bolo ties more reminiscent of the Grand Ole Opry than indie rock dive bars. Angel followed, a pixie sprite in New Age attire, her maroon yoga pants tightly hugging her exposed midriff.

Angel defies stereotypes; on stage she is a contradiction. Her albums, the breakthrough ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ and the transcendent latest release ‘My Woman’ are manifestations of the very essence of despair, capturing misery with the accuracy of Joy Division and Elliott Smith.

‘My Woman’ is a transcription of every wound and agony inflicted when a love dies; it is a modern incarnation of Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’. She delivered this soul-rending material with her face persistently emblazoned with a glorious smile.

Between songs, she wryly lambasted Australia’s penchant for smashed avocado and inquired where the band could score some post-show vegan ice-cream.

An artist’s songs are a snapshot of time, not a fully rendered representation of their identity. On this stormy night in Adelaide (7 December), Angel was resplendent, asking “what’s so wrong with the light?”

Angel’s ‘My Woman’ is a marked departure from her previous releases; her quivering voice and biting turn of phrase remains, but both are now awash with virtuoso guitar shredding that conveys the emotional heft of the lyrics that she is delivering.

While ‘Never Be Mine’ and ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ are tightly crafted three-and-a-half-minute gems laden with golden-pop hooks, ‘Sister’ and ‘Woman’ are sprawling eight-minute jams that have been compared to Neil Young’s Crazy Horse.

Like Young, Angel began her career with country-tinged pathos stripped to the bones but has then emerged from the cocoon as a prog-rock butterfly. Tracks from her back catalogue such as ‘Hi-Five’, ‘Windows’ and ‘Lights Out’ were included on the set list, but the tracks from her epic latest album better utilised the sublime guitar chops of touring guitarist Paul Sukeena and the rest of the tightly honed six-piece band.

Paul's dexterous fingers and inspired wailing were almost enough to distract attention away from Angel’s enchanting presence. She has already produced two albums of timeless profundity, with drastic reinvention and growth evident between releases.

Already a halo of greatness hangs resolutely above this tragic angel’s delicate head.


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